When the going gets tough, the tough reach for their emergency fund
An emergency fund is the backbone of my investment strategy. When stock markets take a huge beating, the thing that keeps me from getting scared out of stocks is a solid emergency fund with a minimum of 6 month’s living expenses. I write about this extensively in my eBook. In this article, I list the best places to keep your emergency fund and why I don’t mix my emergency fund with my investments.
These are the 4 best places to park your emergency fund:
- High-Yield Savings Account
- Money Market Savings
- Certificate of Deposit (CD)
- SPACs Trading At a Discount to the Trust Value
NUMBER 1: HIGH-YIELD SAVINGS ACCOUNT
These days, even “high-yield” savings rates aren’t that high. You’re lucky to get 1.00% interest on your savings. But remember, the purpose of an emergency fund is to be there when you need it most.
Even so, 1.00% is much better than 0%. So let’s dive right in.
Most savings are FDIC or NCUA-insured up to $250,000.00. FDIC insures deposits at banks. NCUA insures deposits at credit unions. You can check a bank or credit union’s insured status here:
Look for high-yield savings with:
- Low or no minimum deposit requirements
- No fees
- Ability to create sub-accounts which are great for setting goals
- FDIC or NCUA insured
- Free checking account to easily access your money
Here are 3 resources I use regularly to research the best savings rates.
NUMBER 2: MONEY MARKET SAVINGS
Money market savings tend to pay a little higher interest rate than high-yield savings, but they usually require a higher minimum deposit. This is the main reason I prefer high-yield savings accounts over money market accounts, but there’s not much difference.
One advantage of money markets is that they allow check-writing and debit card withdrawals. However, you get the same benefit from your high-yield savings if it’s linked to a free checking account. You just have to take the simple step of transferring the money from your savings to checking.
That being said, either one will do a fine job storing your emergency fund.
NUMBER 3: CERTIFICATE OF DEPOSIT (CD)
In general, CDs pay about the same as a money market savings and also require a higher minimum deposit than a high-yield savings account. The only reason I rank CDs lower than money market savings is that they typically require a minimum holding period (maturity date) of 3 months. To qualify for the higher rates, you’ll usually have to agree to the longer maturity date.
Because this money will be used in an emergency, I prefer to keep CDs with a maturity date of 6 months or shorter.
NUMBER 4: SPACS TRADING AT A SIGNIFICANT DISCOUNT TO THE CASH VALUE IN THE TRUST
This is a brand new emergency fund tactic that I’ve added for 2021. It’s much riskier because the cash in a SPAC trust is not guaranteed like an FDIC-insured savings account. For example, if the SPAC gets sued and needs to pay out claims from the cash in the trust, then shareholders will be left feeling the pain. That being said, this can be a good way to add a little extra income to an emergency fund. Stick to SPACs trading for less than $9.90, that have at least $10.00 of cash per share in the trust, and that has already announced a target. Also, make sure your broker doesn’t charge any fees to redeem shares for the SPAC cash.
WHAT ABOUT CRYPTO INTEREST ACCOUNTS?
I would be very cautious about using Bitcoin and other crypto interest accounts for my emergency fund. In these accounts, you are typically lending out your crypto to a 3rd party. If the lender can’t pay, you may risk losing your principal.
I would view these crypto interest accounts as investments and I wouldn’t use any of them for my emergency fund.
WHAT ABOUT Short-term U.S. Treasuries (T-Bills)?
T-Bills typically pay higher than high-yield savings accounts and only require a $100 minimum. You can purchase durations as low as 4-weeks. They are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government, which has always repaid its debts for over 200 years.
Last year, T-Bills were my #2 place to park my emergency fund. This year it’s off the list completely. Last year, T-Bills paid better than even most CDs. At the time of this writing, T-bills don’t even pay as high as my high-yield savings account.
WHAT ABOUT A ROTH IRA?
I’ve seen articles recommending a Roth IRA as an emergency fund. I think that’s a bad idea, and here’s why.
As an investor, the primary purpose of my Roth is to maximize returns. If I start to comingle my investments with my emergency fund, I won’t be able to stay focused on investing. It will also be difficult to track my performance against the market since the emergency fund part of the portfolio would weigh down returns in good years.
That being said, if I’m in dire need of money and my Roth is my only option, then you bet I’ll take money out of it. However, I don’t want to get in the habit of viewing my Roth as an emergency fund for the reasons stated above.
WHERE DOES THE AUTHOR KEEP HIS EMERGENCY FUND?
I personally keep my emergency fund in a high-yield savings account and I also keep a small portion in SPACs trading below their trust cash value.
The high-yield savings account I use is through Alliant Credit Union. These are the things I like about Alliant:
- High Interest: Currently 0.55% (in July 2021) and gets updated regularly as rates change
- No fees: If you sign up for electronic statements
- Low minimum deposit requirements: Check with Alliant for their current requirements
- Sub-accounts: Alliant calls them supplemental accounts and they’re great tools when saving up for specific goals. I give these sub-accounts nicknames like “Fun and Adventure” for my vacation fund or “Sweet Ride” for car maintenance and insurance.
- Free checking that pays interest and reimburses ATM fees: Having a checking account that pays interest is awesome! I don’t use the ATM that much anymore, but it’s nice to get reimbursed.
So there you have it. Let me know what you think. If you find this article helpful, please comment and share on social media. Thanks so much for reading and best of luck building your emergency fund!
Except for Wolves of Investing, I/we are not receiving any compensation from and do not have any business dealings with any companies discussed in this article.
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Donnie Nguyen is the founder and CEO of Wolves of Investing. He started investing in the stock market in the early 2000s. He follows the teachings of Peter Lynch, Warren Buffett, and other investing legends. When he's not investing or blogging, he loves spending time with his family traveling and experiencing the world.
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